Questions people like to ask foreigners, #6: Why do you like living in France?

This is a question I get fairly often from French people: new acquaintances, or old acquaintances who are finally asking The Questions.

There are a lot of things I love about living in France, but the quickest way to answer this question is by talking about the French lifestyle, or the quality of life here. I appreciate that people don’t expect you to answer e-mails after 5 pm, and that they aren’t running back to work in the evening or on a Saturday. Vacation time is valued and plentiful. A shop-owner won’t open on a Sunday just because she could make a few extra bucks, when she would rather be spending time with her family.

There is a lot of value placed on the family in general, and it’s not just political talking points the way it is in the US. Child-care is subsidized, part-time work isn’t as judged—everyone I work with knows that family requires time. Beyond that, work-life balance is more important here.

Unfortunately in explaining my answer I’ve made a lot of generalizations, and probably some people in more cut-throat jobs than mine won’t agree, which I’d totally understand.

There are of course other things I’ve always liked more personally about living in France: the history, the architecture, the language. But as I’ve grown into a full-time, long-term job, the lifestyle answer has definitely won out.

Of course the answer to this question is different when it’s an American answering.

What about everyone else? What do you say when you get this question?

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9 thoughts on “Questions people like to ask foreigners, #6: Why do you like living in France?

  1. Work comes first. Long (unpaid) hours. Responding to emails at whatever time necessary. Basically the opposite of what you send you appreciate about working in France. Maybe saying “what is normal in the US” isn’t quite the case, but the opposite of what you stated for sure.

  2. The work-life balance was definitely one of the major reasons we decided I would come back instead of trying to bring him over. Hasn’t been idyllic in practice, though! My husband is an engineer and his company has clients from all over the world, so he doesn’t ever really get to check out of work. HIs work hours are pretty similar to what my dad (also an engineer) has in the US, along with frequent travel and needing a work phone 24/7. He does get RTT every other week and of course five weeks of vacation, both of which he would never get as a junior engineer in the US.

    • When a friend of ours was applying for engineering jobs a few years ago, he had to negotiate one extra vacation, which I found odd, until he explained that as “cadres” they constantly put in way more than 35 hours a week. So I’m not surprised engineering jobs are different. I’m not sure if I’d take the hike in pay in exchange for the long hours!

  3. Reb says:

    I’ve found it depends enormously on the job. I’ve been most surprised by the clause in most full time CDI contracts starting that the job on question will be your only job; in the US I know tons of people who will work full time and have a night job, or take independent contract work on the side… I currently work for a startup and can corroborate everything Shannon says above.

    I do feel like life here runs on a different rhythm than in the US, though, with a lot more respect for the things you do outside of work (and a lot more time for meals). I really like that.

    I also like the history, and the way rural zones are structured in terms of population and administration, and how close they still are to urban areas. I like the shorter distances and the greater differences between one region and another.

    But of course that also depends on what region of the US you’re from, and how long you’ve been here…

    • When you work for the ministry of education you have to get them to authorize any side jobs, and I have colleagues who work for companies like EF and Nacel during the summer, taking kids on trips abroad to learn English. I can’t be bothered yet to do anything extra with my summer, and I know that might seem strange to a lot of American teachers who always work a second job in the summer.

      The driving distances are definitely way different over here (and Europe in general).

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